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The Lexus IS is the brand’s entry-level sedan, but did you know it once came in wagon form? Back in the early 2000s, Lexus produced the IS 300, which was popular, but it upped the ante by introducing a more practical version dubbed the “SportCross.” Unfortunately, it didn’t sell too well, and now it’s one of the rarest Lexus models you can buy.

What’s so great about the 2003 Lexus IS 300 SportCross?

The Lexus IS 300 SportCross was based on the IS sedan produced from 2001 to 2005. This platform was considered the best IS model Lexus ever made by some enthusiasts for its small size, sharp handling, and customizable engine. But when Lexus introduced the SportCross version in 2002, it was now practical.

The IS 300 SportCross was never meant to compete with the likes of Audi and Volvo, but its wagon body did add a lot of space. With the rear seats folded, there were 35.3 cubic feet of storage space compared to the sedan’s 10 cubic feet in its trunk. Aside from the bulbous rear end, the IS 300 SportCross was identical to its sedan counterpart.

Its interior featured leather seats with Alcantara inserts, a premium sound system with a CD and tape player, and shift buttons on the steering wheel. That’s right, instead of the shifter paddles that are common in cars today, Lexus used “up” and “down” shift buttons so the driver could manually shift the gears in the automatic transmission.

Wagon body and funky shift buttons aside, the Lexus IS 300 SportCross is a heck of a find today because it’s rare. Lexus only produced a little over 3,000 units during the few years the SportCross was in production, so it’s a rare car in today’s market.

The IS 300 was powered by a legendary engine

A rear view of the 2003 Lexus IS 300 SportCross
2003 Lexus IS 300 SportCross | Getty Images

Although the Lexus IS 300 SportCross’ rarity makes it a hidden gem, another part that contributes to its specialness is the engine that resides under its hood. That engine is none other than the 2JZ, which was also found in the non-turbo MkIV Supra. It produced 215 hp and 218 lb-ft of torque, which was enough power to get the car up to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds.

The engine was solely mated to a five-speed automatic transmission that transmitted the power to the rear wheels. However, many enthusiasts in the past couple of decades have successfully swapped a manual transmission into the SportCross, which really wakes it up. Additionally, the 2JZ is highly customizable, so strapping on a turbocharger or other power modifications is not uncommon.

How much does a Lexus IS 300 SportCross cost today?

A front view of the 2003 Lexus IS 300 SportCross
2003 Lexus IS 300 SportCross | Getty Images

Anyone looking to get their hands on a 2003 Lexus IS 300 SportCross can expect to pay $10,000 to $20,000 for one. A recent nationwide search on CarGurus revealed two clean examples, which shows how hard it is to find one of these cars. Considering the IS 300 SportCross’ rarity and tunability, it’s worth the price of entry nowadays.


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